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Bessey Vario K Body Revo Clamping System
Expanded clamping capabilities in less space
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 5-8-2009
When Bessey released the Revo version of their venerable parallel jaw clamps I thought they had taken this concept about as far as it could go. Once again they proved me wrong. Now the Bessey Vario K Body Revo not only expands the capabilities of the parallel jaw clamp, it makes it a true clamping system that can be configured to meet your specific shop and needs.
Bessey Bar Base
The Bessey Vario K Body Revo is built around their famous hourglass-shaped bar that is made from high-quality steel using ultra precise manufacturing processes in their German facilities. The 1-1/8"-tall by 3/8"-thick bars are remarkably tough and rigid. For long term durability the bars are brightly plated to help fight corrosion and to make removing the inevitable glue drops easier.
The bars have precisely formed serrations on three distinct surfaces along the top and bottom of the bar. The interaction of those six serrated surfaces and the internal locking plates produce a powerful, slip-free grip that handles the 1500 LB clamping pressures the Bessey Vario K Body Revo is capable of generating.
The Bessey Vario K Body Revo comes with a tough pressure-applying jaw that can be positioned anywhere on the bar or reversed for spreading applications. When locked in place the clamping face remains square to the bar under pressure.
Clamping pressure is applied by turning a large 1-5/16"-diameter handle with a rubber-like covering that is both comfortable and slip-resistant. That handle turns a finely made Acme style thread that generates up to 1500 LBS of clamping force easily and smoothly. This thread design is common on many clamps but nobody manufactures it more precisely then Bessey and that translates directly into ease of use, pressures generated and long-term durability.
The jaw face is a full 5-3/4"-tall overall with 3-3/4" of that above the bar. The jaw is 2"-wide overall with a full 3/4"-width available to either side of the bar. That dimension comes in very handy since many of our projects use 3/4"-thick wood and laying the Bessey Vario K Body Revo on its side provides a very large clamping surface for glue-ups. The jaw is fitted with a removable plastic cover that helps prevent marring of the wood and makes removing glue transfer simple.
"Not-So-Fixed" Variable Jaw
The major change on the Bessey Vario K Body Revo is that the formerly fixed jaw can now be placed anywhere on the bar with a push of the top-located release button. This one innovation opens the door to a huge range of possibilities.
The variable jaw has two clamping surfaces that match the one on the moveable jaw. Both are 5-3/4"-tall, 2"-wide, 3-3/4" above the bar and 3/4" to either side of the bar. Both clamping surfaces on the variable jaws are fitted with the removable plastic covers.
The most noticeable visual difference in the new variable jaw is its thickness, measured parallel to the bar. This version is 2-3/8"-thick where the standard Revo fixed jaw is1-5/8"-thick. This extra thickness is due to the sophisticated plate and release mechanism that Bessey developed to make all this possible. Despite the quick release capability, the variable jaw locks onto the bar and stays square under the full 1500-LB pressure the Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps can generate.
Bessey added a pushbutton in the top of the variable jaw that releases the internal locking plates so it can be moved to anywhere on the bar. Because this jaw has identical clamping surfaces on both sides there is no wrong way to install it on the bar. When converting to spreading mode, you can just slip the variable jaw off and put it on the other end of the bar. You never have to remove the pressure jaw if you don't want to. But that is just the start of the possibilities the variable jaw makes possible.
To further expand the capabilities of the Bessey Vario K Body Revo a line of accessories allow the woodworker to literally build a clamping system that best fits their shop and job list. By adding the necessary components you can clamp up two or three assemblies with one set of longer Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps. Since the bar edges are identical there is no up or down so you can put the second clamp up on whichever side of the bar makes the best use of the space available. And, because all of the accessories are identical to the original Bessey Vario K Body Revo components, none of the clamping pressure or jaw stability is lost.
Bessey offers additional movable (KR-J2K) and variable (KR-V0) jaws that slip onto the standard Bessey Vario K Body Revo bars. These jaws are sold individually so you can build whatever clamping station your shop needs. Being able to double (or triple?) up the clamping positions on your longer Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps make it possible to save a bunch of shop space, time and money.
The accessory movable and variable jaws are identical to the ones that come on the Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps, including the slip-on jaw covers. That means they bring the same strength, alignment and pressure generating capabilities.
Each Bessey Vario K Body Revo comes with two Rail Protectors that elevate the stock above the bar and help reduce glue transfer to the bar. They also provide a larger surface to help keep the stock flat during clamping. You can buy additional Rail Protectors (KR-RPP) to provide the same function at other clamping stations you may create on the Bessey Vario K Body Revo bars. The Rail Protectors may appear to be very simple but they are effective components that should not be overlooked.
An ingenious Vario K Body Revo accessory is the new Bessey Tilting Adaptor (KR-AS) that mounts directly to the standard jaws and make clamping up assemblies with angled surfaces much easier. All you have to do to install the Tilting Adaptor is slip the jaw cover off and slide the Tilting Adaptor on in its place. That holds the Tilting Adaptor in position and simplifies using them substantially when you don't have an extra hand available.
The Tilting Adaptors are pure high-end Bessey in design, materials and manufacture. Each has a 7" by 1" clamping surface that features a non-marring, non-staining material on the clamping surface. The length of the jaw helps apply even clamping pressure over a larger area and the face of the jaw is slightly tapered to maintain the maximum amount of contact when the wood is not perfectly parallel. The jaw is made from high-strength plastic with engineered internal webbing that keeps them rigid.
The Tilting Adaptor jaw can pivot up to 15-degrees to either side. That lets you apply clamping pressure much more evenly while saving the frustration of trying to cut wedges or shims to create the angle and then getting all of those pieces into the clamps, not to mention aligning everything! Here again, what looks like a very simple accessory can have a major impact in how easy a rather common woodworking task is.
And, the Table Clamps will secure the Bessey Vario K Body Revo to the work surface. The KBX20 extenders can be used to connect multiple bars end-to-end to make a Bessey Vario K Body Revo as long as you want it.
In the Shop
Using the Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps is dead simple because they adjust easy, apply pressure easy and apply that force squarely to the project. The screw handles are nicely sized and the super-clean Acme thread makes applying just the amount of pressure wanted very easy and strain-free even for those of us with 60-year-old arthritic hands. Bessey holds an honored place in woodworkers' hearts for a very good reason. Their clamps work right, are made right and last a very long time. But that is all old news if you currently use anything from Bessey, the real news here is in the versatility of the Bessey Vario K Body Revo design.
Making the formerly fixed jaw variable is the key. Woodworkers always have lengths of bare, unused clamp bar available when we clamp up most projects. The Bessey Vario K Body Revo design lets you add another set of jaws and use that bar space to do another clamp up without interfering with the first one. This concept makes so much sense that I wonder why nobody thought of it before.
Being able to add a second clamping job to one set of bars means that you conserve shop space and time. It also allows you to design and build a clamping system that fits your shop needs exactly. All that means you just might save a few bucks while your shop works more efficiently. I also think that because this concept is brand new it is likely that once woodworkers get them in their shops additional uses/benefits will be discovered.
The Vario K Body Revo clamps certainly uphold the Bessey tradition for high-quality products. The innovative design retains all of the great Bessey parallel jaw clamp qualities while adding a new and substantial level of versatility. The space saving, multi-clamp up concept alone will be important in any shop but particularly the smaller spaces so common today.
At this writing, (5-5-2009) the Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps are just coming onto the market and the true street price may take a little while to get established. At this moment, the 40" Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps have a street price of $61.50 each and the 60" versions $69.50. When the Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps get fully worked into the marketplace I will add a live pricing link to this review.
If you are trying to build a collection of clamps, the Bessey Vario K Body Revo clamps deserve a close look. This could be a great way to get the clamping capacity you need without filling the shop and emptying the wallet at the same time. The Bessey quality means that this investment will be both long term and wise.
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